Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley telecommunications multi-millionaire entrepreneur, withdrew his name on Wednesday from consideration to fill one of the five seats on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), citing too many conflicts with his rich and varied personal investment portfolio. Poizner, an unsuccessful candidate for an elected state legislative seat two years ago, said he plans to run next year for the state Insurance Commissioner’s post.
For more than three months, Poizner and state attorneys had worked to structure the candidate’s investments in such a way that he be would free of conflicts of interest in voting on various energy and telecommunications matters, among others, at the CPUC. But Wednesday, they threw in the towel, with Poizner telling the media he couldn’t serve on the CPUC without having to recuse himself on a number of votes.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s press office indicated that the governor is not saying when he will nominate another candidate for the fifth seat on the panel. The position has been vacant since Jan. 1 although Schwarzenegger named Poizner to the post last December, along with another nominee, Dian Grueneich, who took her seat two months ago. As more time elapsed, prospects grew dimmer that Poizner’s appointment was going to ever advance.
Ultimately, he acknowledged that he could not find a way to satisfy lawyers at California’s Fair Political Practices Commission that would allow him to vote on decision affecting the telecommunications companies — numbering at least 100 — with ties to his portfolio, the Los Angeles Times reported in a business news report Thursday.
When Poizner ran unsuccessfully two years ago for a state Assembly seat from the wealthy Silicon suburb of Los Gatos, CA, he filed a statement of economic interests that verified that he held “millions of dollars worth of investments in a variety of telecom companies, including Qualcomm, Motorola Inc. and Taral Networks, a wireless content provider,” according to a report in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, which said Poizner also has multi-million-dollar stakes in “other high-tech companies and a number of venture capital funds.”
Attorneys for the leading utility consumer groups in the state told the LA Times they were surprised that the governor chose to nominate Poizner, given his extensive investments, which include relatively small stock holdings of between $2,000 and $10,000 worth of three major telecommunications providers” SBC Communications Inc., Bell-South Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. (state reporting requirements do not require candidates to give their exact dollar amounts of stock).
While it is not clear that Poizner had potential conflicts in the energy arena, his investment portfolio potentially took him out of telecommunications issues, of which the CPUC has many major challenges to work through this year and beyond.
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